Keeneland September Yearling Sale Roars to Finish with Record Gross, Average and MedianSeptember 24, 2022
Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale, the leading source of champions and stakes winners around the world, ended its record run on Saturday with gross sales of $405,495,700, the highest in Keeneland auction history, and September Sale records for average ($142,429) and median ($70,000) prices.
Keeneland sold a total of 2,847 yearlings through the ring during the 12-day auction, held Sept. 12-24, for $405,495,700 to best the previous record of $399,791,800 set during the 2006 September Sale. This year’s gross represents a 14.93 percent increase over $352,815,500 for 2,671 horses sold through the ring at last year’s 11-day sale.
Cumulative average and median prices surpassed September Sale records established in 2021. Average price of $142,429 rose 7.83 percent over last year’s $132,091, while the median was up 7.69 percent from $65,000 to $70,000.
Additionally, 114 horses that did not meet their reserve price in the ring were sold privately for a total of $12,725,500 to push total gross sales to $418,221,200 as of Sept. 24.
“This sale went beyond our expectations and reflects the energy and excitement in racing right now,” Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin said. “We are grateful to our consignors, sellers and buyers for their support of Keeneland and the September Sale. And a special thanks to the breeders. We appreciate how much hard work goes into breeding and raising quality horses, and we are very happy they were rewarded for their efforts through the ring.”
In addition to the record results, the unprecedented depth of the September Sale market and the diversity of its buying bench is reflected in the numbers:
- 88 different buyers each spent $1 million or more during the two-week sale.
- 30 yearlings sold for $1 million or more, the most since the 2007 September Sale and double the 15 sold in 2021.
- The $2.5 million sale-topping Quality Road colt was the most expensive yearling in North America and the second most expensive yearling in the world sold at public auction this year.
- The top 10 highest-priced horses sold to eight different buyers.
- The top 15 highest-priced horses represented 13 different consignors.
- 162 horses sold for $500,000 or more during the sale compared to 138 in 2021, representing consignors large and small.
- Demand for horses produced a record clearance rate of 82 percent.
“We are extremely happy with the way the sale went,” Keeneland Vice President of Sales Tony Lacy said. “We’re very proud of having quality horses cataloged right to the end of the auction. For breeders, there’s a lot more quality control in the system and we’re at a point where supply and demand are pretty balanced. We are delighted for our clients and appreciate the support they’ve given us.”
Aidan O’Meara of Stonehaven Steadings, which sold 19 horses for $8,283,000 (including private sales), headlined by the sale-topping $2.5 million Quality Road colt purchased by Talla Racing, Woodford Racing and West Point, L.E.B., echoed comments about market strength.
“It’s been a tremendous market,” O’Meara said. “We had a phenomenal run ourselves, but everybody across the board has had some seriously nice trading. It’s a huge turnaround from a couple of years ago at the height of COVID and we were all fretting about what was going to unfold in that scenario. To see the turnaround in such a short period of time has been phenomenal.”
For the second consecutive year, the September Sale presented Books 1 and 2 on the first four days of the auction with more than 1,000 horses among the finest individuals based on pedigree and conformation in the catalog. The goal was to present the largest number of exceptional horses possible before major domestic and foreign buyers during Week 1.
“We listened to feedback from buyers and tried to structure the sale in a way that would enable them to see the top horses in the first few days, and they responded. Buyers showed up in droves from all over the world,” Keeneland Director of Sales Operations Cormac Breathnach said. “Growth on Day 1 was tremendous – no bigger day of growth from last year to this year than that first day of the sale.”
Day 1 grossed $57,095,000, up 48.99 percent from last year’s first-day gross of $38,322,000.
The auction opened with immediate fireworks as Hip 1, a colt by Medaglia d’Oro, sold to the partnership of Talla and West Point for $850,000, the highest amount paid for Hip 1 in the September Sale since at least 1999. Seven hips later, the auction had its first seven-figure horse, a filly by Quality Road sold to Claiborne Farm, agent, for $1.2 million.
“The very first hip bringing $850,000 set the tone,” Lacy said. “That first day was incredible. We really leaned into getting Book 1 solidified by listening to our buyers and our clients. This was something we needed to reestablish to make sure we had the quality forward. It really worked. The buyers appreciated it. There was almost a sense of euphoria around the grounds for a number of days and it carried all the way through the sale.”
Gross sales of $113,660,000 for the two-day Book 1 represented a 25.42 percent increase over 2021’s $90,622,000. Another sign of Book 1 strength came in the number of horses selling for $500,000 or more: 96 this year versus 43 last year. The two-day Book 1 clearance rate jumped from 65 percent in 2021 to 78 percent this year.
The bullish market continued through Week 2 of the sale, which included major Week 1 buyers such as Vinnie Viola’s St. Elias Stable shopping into the final days; Viola bought session-topping yearlings on Days 10 and 11. Further strengthening Week 2 was the active participation of waves of international buyers representing such countries as Argentina, Azerbaijan, Chile, China, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Korea, Mexico, Panama and Saudi Arabia.
“It’s an incredible market. The rate of sales is amazing,” said Pat Costello of Paramount Sales, which sold 136 horses for $20,448,500 (includes private sales to date). “Today (second Thursday) out back (rear bidding and viewing area) they’re clamoring over the horses. They are people who got shut out in previous books. There is depth to the market. The top-end guys kept buying back into other books (beyond Books 1 and 2) and that has driven people back into these books (5 and 6). One of the things driving the market is the shortage of horses.”
In Books 4-6, the clearance rate never fell below 82 percent. During the ninth session on Wednesday, Sept. 21, a Keeneland record 329 horses sold through the ring in a single session.
“The catalog is only as good as the support the breeders give you,” Breathnach said. “It’s a very strong crop of yearlings that has been bred locally and nationally. That’s a credit to the breeders and sellers who presented them so well. And we were supported so well by the buying base domestically and internationally all the way through the sale. It shows the hunger for racehorses is there.”
“It’s been a strong sale across the board, and it’s amazing it has held up so well and above last year,” agreed Marc McLean of Crestwood Farm, which sold seven-figure horses for the first time, a Gun Runner colt and a Quality Road colt, each for $1.05 million. “There has been a good floor, which is nice for the horses that aren’t the stars. It had great depth. That’s a healthy market to me. We had quite a few standouts in each session. It’s nice to have horses that are the more elite of the day. It’s such a great feeling for us and the owners and breeders and the whole farm staff to have something that you feel will stand out. We’re in Book 6, and we’re busier than we ever dreamed we’d be.”
Keeneland’s year-round outreach to horsemen across the U.S. and around the world produced a broad and deep buying bench with many principals and interests representing 24 countries participating this year.
“Our team has been traveling around the country and the world, visiting major racing jurisdictions and race meets to promote the September Sale heavily over the past year,” Lacy said. “We’ve been working very hard to expand our reach. For instance, 10 groups from Japan were here for the sale. That’s the busiest they’ve been at a September Sale in a long, long time. That’s the result of a lot of hard work by our team, and we’re just getting started.”
Major domestic buyers, including a number of partnerships that have become prevalent in the industry, and many international entities were actively scouting racing prospects. Among the leading buyers were Repole Stable and St. Elias Stables; Donato Lanni, agent for SF/Starlight/Madaket; Donald and Donna Adam’s Courtlandt Farm; Mike Ryan; Maverick Racing and Siena Farm; Richard Knight Bloodstoock; BSW/Crow Colts Group/Spendthrift/Gandharvi; Albaugh Family Stables; Larry Best; Jim and Dana Bernhard’s Lynnhaven Racing; Winchell Thoroughbreds/Three Chimneys and Talla Racing/Woodford Racing/West Point.
Japan’s Hideyuki Mori bought the half-brother to Triple Crown winner Justify for $1.2 million and the full brother to Kentucky Derby (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Authentic for $800,000.
A familiar name among Book 1 buyers was Shadwell, the global operation now under the leadership of Sheikha Hissa Hamdan Al Maktoum.
“Keeneland sponsors races at Ascot that (President and CEO) Shannon Arvin attended. Tony (Lacy) was at the Curragh in Ireland,” Breathnach said. “Mark Maronde is about to leave for Australia to recruit for the November Breeding Stock Sale. Chip McGaughey and Kate Hunter were in Japan and Chip went on to South Korea. Kyle Wilson was in South America this summer. Ed Prosser and Dean Roethemeier were in the Middle East twice for the Dubai World Cup (G1) and other events this spring and in Saudi Arabia. Ed also works diligently across Europe.
“So it’s a continuous process and it’s very gratifying to see the results. We did benefit from more open borders than we had last year (with the easing of pandemic restrictions on travel). But we had a feeling early on we were going to get more international participation, and we worked to encourage them to come here.”
Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, led all consignors at the September Sale for the eight consecutive year and the 24th year overall since 1988. Taylor Made sold 273 yearlings for $38,969,000, including three seven-figure colts by Constitution ($1.8 million), Quality Road ($1.15 million) and Into Mischief ($1 million).
Gainesway was second in total sales, followed by Paramount Sales, Lane’s End Farm, Denali Stud, Eaton Sales, Woods Edge Farm, Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency and Machmer Hall Thoroughbreds.
Several consignors recorded their first million-dollar horses during the auction: Highgate Sales, the new operation of Jill Gordon and Jacob West, sold a $ 1.3 million Constitution colt during Session 2; Alex and Sarah Rankin’s Upson Downs Farm sold a $1.35 million Into Mischief filly in Session 2 and sales for the aforementioned McLean family’s Crestwood Farm were in Session 3.
“It’s been remarkably strong from start to finish,” Highgate’s Jill Gordon said. “When you have a horse that hits the mark, you’re well exceeding expectations. Thankfully, most of our horses were able to meet the criteria and do well. The market has held incredibly well. The depth of the buying bench has been huge. Some of your bigger partnerships and major buyers are picking up quite a few horses but beneath them you are seeing a wide variety of buyers and they are spending lots of money and coming back for more. The energy has been sensational.”
For the third consecutive year, the sale’s leading sire was Into Mischief, whose 58 yearlings – including eight horses purchased for $1 million and more – sold for $30,495,000 (includes private sales to date).
Offspring of Quality Road topped the first and fourth sessions, and for the second year in a row he was the leading sires by average price (with three or more yearlings sold) with 37 horses averaging $533,514 (including private sales to date). Quality Road’s yearlings included seven million-dollar horses led by the aforementioned sale topper.
During Saturday’s final session, 184 yearlings sold for $2,518,000, for an average of $13,685 and a median of $8,000.
The high seller was a filly by English Channel sold to Tracy Farmer for $115,000. Consigned by Buckland Sales (Zach Madden), she is a full sister to stakes winner and Grade 2-placed Ritzy A. P. Her dam is In Dy Ritz, by A.P. Indy.